For more than a decade, Michael McCullough has been working to discover how evolution has shaped humanity’s most admirable traits—as well as our most despicable ones. His research has helped to uncover the evolutionary roots of our capacities for forgiveness, gratitude, generosity—as well as the evolutionary logic underlying our lust for revenge, our frequent indifference to the suffering of strangers, and the delight we often take in the misery of our rivals and enemies.
McCullough is a professor of Psychology at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, where he directs the PhD Program in Evolutionary Psychology and the Evolution and Human Behavior Laboratory. A prolific writer, McCullough has authored more than 100 published scientific articles, some of which have appeared in science’s top journals. He is also the author of several books, including Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct, which Steven Pinker names as one of his five favorite books on the psychology of violence. He is currently at work on a book that explains the evolutionary and cultural origins of human generosity.
McCullough’s research and views have been covered in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Scientific American, USA Today, The Guardian, The London Sunday Times, Newsweek, and Time. He has been a guest on many NPR shows including On Being and Talk of the Nation, usually to represent an evolutionary perspective on human nature. He has also been featured on 48 Hours with Dan Rather and CBS News Sunday Morning.
The End of Vengeance: The Science of Revenge and the Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct
The desire for revenge is a universal human emotion, yet it is a root cause of much of the conflict and violence in the world today. Why is revenge such a pervasive problem? Why is the desire for revenge so seductive? How do we create a future in which revenge is less common and forgiveness is more common? In this riveting talk, full of colorful examples from science, literature, and real life, Professor McCullough explains that the key to a more forgiving, less vengeful world is to understand the evolutionary forces that gave rise to these intimately human instincts–as well as the social forces that activate them in human minds today. Drawing on exciting breakthroughs from the social and biological sciences, McCullough draws surprising and practical conclusions for making the world a less violent place.
“It was a great honor to have Mike McCullough return to Virginia Commonwealth University as our December 2016 Psychology graduation speaker. Mike’s message to students and parents about the relevance of a liberal arts education today – and how a Psychology degree in particular could prepare students to address important societal problems — was an important and refreshing reminder to us all.” – Wendy Kliewer, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Psychology, Virginia Commonwealth University
“We had a wonderful experience with Michael. The topic was engaging and thought provoking. He presented the information in a way that resonated well with the audience, and gave everyone relatable take-away messages. It’s always a terrific testament to the strength of a talk when you still have tons of hands up after the allotted Q&A time.” – Madison Snyder, Events Coordinator – IVY (The Social University)
“Michael was an engaging speaker. I felt like I was a student again listening to an awesome lecture. He did a great job of interjecting humor in just the right places to make sure the audience was still with him – and we were. It was nice to have someone speak on a topic that everyone could relate to on a basic, human level…Of all of the speakers in our series this year, I was most excited about/anticipating Michael’s – and he didn’t disappoint.” – Renee Knight – Franklin College
“The Center for Humans and Nature was thrilled to have Mike McCullough present his insights into the connections between mind and morality at our recent event with the American Museum of Natural History in New York. McCullough’s work offers important insights into what it means to be a moral being. To see his ideas come to life in this recent public talk, go to: www.HumansandNature.org/McCullough” — Brooke Parry Hecht, Ph.D., President – Center for Humans and Nature
“Michael McCullough is one of our most original and engaging citizen scientists, on one of the most fascinating frontiers of the 21st Century – the evolution of morality. His research illuminates the potential we possess to activate the best virtues of humanity. His writing and speaking set this power to work in the world.” — Krista Tippett, Creator and Host – On Being.